Entry 42: Radiation completed – Alooooha!

Hello friends! Yesterday was such a great day: I finished my three weeks of radiation treatment. Whoo hoo!! And my radiation oncologist said that my neck looks great and that the tumor will continue to shrink. You can barely see it anymore! My neck should be totally back to normal by the end of the month. I blasted Kelly Clarkson’s “Stonger” all the way home. :) Like any cancer treatment it was stressful, but I was super grateful that it had limited side effects. I made it through another treatment everyone! Life is GREAT!!

Thank you to all my family and friends for your support and kind words while I went through treatment. I’ve been sick off and on all week with a cold and cough, which is not fun when my neck and throat are swollen and sore from radiation. Having a great support system around me has really helped. So thank you!!

I have also had a lot of praise and support for my new healthy diet. I’m still going strong! Some people have expressed concerns and asked questions regarding my getting enough protein, calcium, and vitamins without animal meat or dairy. I can definitely assure you that my diet is outlined by professional nutritionists, and since I’m in treatment I am constantly getting my blood work checked. I just had it done a week ago, and all my levels look fantastic. And, despite getting over this cold/cough, I feel great! My energy is up, and that is one of the most important things while going through treatment: it’s allowed me to keep up with my walking and yoga. Staying active during treatment has proven to enhance the results – very very good news for me! I have the dead tumor tissue to prove it. :)

I am also excited to report that this healthy cancer patient (heh) is losing weight! I am 10 pounds down since starting my plant-based/vegan/sugar-free diet. My belly has started to flatten out and I actually have definition in my legs (something I thought was genetically impossible). As I mentioned before, I have been doing lots of walking, yoga, and working with resistance bands to tone up and gain strength as well as my new diet. And the best thing of all now is that I have a totally different relationship with my food which has reduced a huge amount of stress in my life. No more counting calories, bargaining, cheat-eating because “I deserve it” (ha), guilt, feeling deprived and depressed over lack of results. It was on a cycle of emotions which I had, sadly, gotten used to. Now that I am free of those negative feelings I can understand how toxic they were to my mind, body, and well-being. Life on the healthy train is really all it’s cracked up to be, and I am LOVING it!

If you are interested in looking into some yummy vegan recipes and wellness inspiration, you should check out my Pinterest page! There’s also tons of fashion, wedding and event related things too. Enjoy: pinterest.com/kathypotwin.

I am so blessed to have a three week break between radiation and chemotherapy treatment. My husband and I leave tomorrow morning for the Big Island of Hawaii!! We are just so elated and so grateful to our family for putting this trip together for us. I can’t believe we’ve been married almost a one year, and what a crazy year it has been. It’s our first vacation while going through all of this, and I am so excited to get some rest and relaxation on the beach! This trip will definitely be full of rejuvenating, healing, connecting, and prepping for chemo. Talk about getting a mind, body, and soul make over! Plus the radiation tanned the left side of my neck … I need to even that out a little bit (lots of SPF of course). :)

I’m bringing two wigs with me to Hawaii, but it will probably be so hot I will most likely wear hats every where. I’m still a little self-conscious about being in public with nothing but a hat or scarf — it’s the ultimate “cancer patient” label — but it’s apart of who I am now, and I am not ashamed of that. I am all about the self love lately! And I know I am beautiful whether I have a full head of hair or totally bald with no lashes or brows. I will not let anything ruin this amazing trip for us, even I get looks or stares from time to time! Who knows, maybe it work to my advantage some how. ;) You never know!!

I also decided, based upon an amazing suggestion from my cancer counselor, that during my upcoming chemotherapy sessions I will do something charitable instead if just reading my iPad or sleeping while the chemo is IV’d in me over several hours. I was thinking of crocheting scarves for foster and homeless children for the Fall season coming up, or crocheting blankets for preemie babies. What do you guys think? Enduring treatment can be very stressful, negative, emotional, and tiring, and I want turn that time into an experience to do something good for others. What a great thing to put out into the Universe, right?! I believe that doing self-less, charitable work is so good for the soul. If anyone else has ideas please feel free to shoot them my way! Now I am looking a little bit forward to treatment, instead of dreading it.

That’s all for now everyone! I hope you had a nice, relaxing Labor Day weekend (I know I did). I’m so excited that is will be almost Fall when I get back from vacation … my favorite time of year! Pumpkin spice, candles, wool-knit sweaters, cute boots, fuzzy scarves – there is so much to love about Fall. Ahhhhh.

Take care you guys, and much Aloha!!

xoxo,

Kathy

PS: If you haven’t visited my official website yet, you should check it out! www.kathypotwincancersupport.com. Thank you!!

Entry 41: 2 Weeks of Positive Changes!

So it’s been about 14 days since the big “news”, and so much has happened since then!   Where to start?

I now have an official support website: www.kathypotwincancersupport.com

And I started a CaringBridge site as well: www.caringbridge.org/visit/kathypotwin

Treatment is going well! My tumor has shrunk a lot, as to be expected, so that’s good. Good riddance! I only have 6 more radiation treatments left, my last day being September 4th. The down sides are that my throat is getting pretty sore (it feel like when I had my tonsils taken out) and I have to be a steroid medicine during treatment to reduce the tumor swelling. The steroid can make me anxious, jittery, and it’s hard to focus. I accidentally drank caffeinated tea the other day and oh boy, was I WIRED!! It was awful. I had to start taking a sleep medicine to counter act the side effects. And a little fatigue. But compared to what I am used to going through, this treatment isn’t bad at all. I can do a day-to-day “normal” routine, and as long as I feel good mentally then I feel good physically.

Speaking of feeling good physically … today also marks 2 weeks of totally vegan, plant-based clean eating for me! Woo hoo! I’ve been meaning to take the plunge to vegan for a while now, and after I found out my cancer spread I decided to change mr lifestyle for good and never look back. My diet now consists of mostly raw foods, vegetables, some fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, sprouts, tofu and tempeh, some fun meat substitutes (ha ha) and seawater plants (seaweeds and stuff … super cancer-fighting!). I base my diet off of Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet and some tips from of Alicia Silverstone’s book The Kind Life. There are  a ton of people who have reversed their disease with a plant-based diet. Not just cancer, but diabetes and heart disease as well! Watch the documentary ‘Forks Over Knives’ if you have the chance. It will blow your mind!

Now, I’m not banking on the fact that my new diet will cure my cancer (but of course I am always hopeful, heh) I just want to give my body the most nourishment and power to fight the disease. And I have years of crap to clean out of system! I mean, I was a processed-food/sugar-junkie/Starbucks/fried-food FREAK for almost 25 years! And I was getting right back into it as I was preparing to be “in the clear” of cancer and back to a “normal life”. Talk about something good coming out of something bad: because of my new diet I feel AMAZING! People say I glow, too. I have way more energy (even while going through radiation!) and I don’t crave crap or sugar anymore. And I don’t stress or think about food nearly as much as I used to, even at all (no more constant self-bargaining, guilt, and “I deserve this ice cream, dammit!”). Stress and anxiety feed cancer, so my my lifestyle change has done wonders from my mind and spirit as well.

And get this … no sweets or processed sugary foods in 2 weeks either. I only drink one glass of wine or champagne no more than once or twice a week, and it’s just socially. That is HUGE for me! The old Kathy would tote around a Soy Caramel Macchiato everywhere and have at least one piece of candy/chocolate per day, and most definitely one or two drinks with dinner. Dessert was always a must when going out to eat. Well it’s true what they say, people: once you give it up, you don’t crave sugar anymore! I promise! And it only gets easier. If I can do it, you can do it, too. The hardest part is the first couple of weeks of restraint and discipline, but the rewards are so worth it. Your body will thank you by making you feel AMAZING! And losing weight, of course. Which I have. :) But don’t worry friends, I will definitely let myself indulge in a vegan dessert on special occasions. I know a little sugar is not going to kill me! And you better believe that when I am sitting in a cafe with my husband in Paris that I will enjoy a French macaron or two.

Friends have asked me if switching my diet was hard. For me, it was not. The “2 year” thing was a big enough reality check and shock to my system (but let me remind you that it was just one opinion of one doctor, who wasn’t even my doctor). But if it was not for that, I would be struggling like crazy (and I was!). Now I am totally converted! If you are looking to clean up your eating, my biggest advice is to dedicate time to educating yourself and getting support. I am happy to be diet buddies with anyone, so hit me up if you need inspiration! I would love to help.

On another note, my husband and I were able to get away last weekend to our family vacation home at Black Butte Ranch. Even though it was only for a few days, it was so relaxing! We really made the most of our time there. We got spa treatments, laid by the pool, nature walks, and lots of lounging. I got to get away from the “craziness”, fully relax and came to a lot great epiphanies. I re-read Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor (she is so totally my cancer guru) and it changed my life. Here are some new mantra’s I brought home with me:

• I will live a beautiful, fulfilling, brilliant, and amazing life even with cancer.

• Disease cannot thrive when I am at ease.

• I love and accept every single part of me, even my cancer cells and tumor. But I will be happy to see them go. :)

• I am not striving to be cured. I just want to live the best quality of life as possible, for as long as possible. And if I am cured one day – then hallelujah!!

• I’ve taken up daily journaling, meditation, and spirituality. Everyone has their religious cup of tea, and Buddhism seems to be doin’ it for me! I still draw a lot of inspiration from biblical texts as well.

• Everyday I write down 20 things that I am grateful for, even if my day isn’t that great or exciting.

The only other update I have is that my husband and I were able to book a much needed vacation to Hawaii, and we are leaving in 2 weeks! Thank you thank you thank you to our wonderful family for making this happen for us. Alex will be finishing his crazy-intense six month EMT program next week, and I will have a break between radiation and chemotherapy. And our one year wedding anniversary is coming up on September 24th, so the timing couldn’t be better! I can’t wait to relax and zen-out on an island. That sounds like Heaven right about now. :)

And thank you to all of you, my friends and family, for your kind words of support and encouragement! They really keep me going. The more positive, the better. I know the news was really shocking, and I know it can make you sad, but please know that I am in a very happy place right now. I am so blessed with amazing people in my life and surrounded by so much love. And I am finding so much inner peace. I have learned that you really don’t need much more from life than that.

Ending this post with my favorite new quote!

xoxo,

Kathy

“A survivor is a triumphant person who lives with, after, or in spite of a diagnosis or traumatic event. They are not imprisoned by the constructs of a label. Instead, survivors use their brush with mortality as a catalyst for creating a better self. We transform our experience in order to further evolve spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Our reality challenges us to go deeper. Survivors cultivate an essence that will never be victim to a word.”
- Kris Carr, Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor
Kris Carr:

Entry 40: The scan results. Still fighting the good fight!

Hi everyone,

So I finally got my scan results last Friday. Before I begin, I just want to say what a whirlwind this last weekend and week has been! For those who already know the news, thank you so much for your love and support. I could not have done it without you guys!

Well, remember how I have been writing about that the lymph nodes in my neck have been bothering me? Friday I got the phone call from my oncologist that there is definitely cancer activity in those exact lymph nodes, and that I needed to meet with the radiation oncologist that day right away to get the pre-work done for treatment.

Last Friday there will was only a fill-in doctor available the radiation department (my normal radiation doctor was out of town). I tried to pester the fill-in doc for information regarding the seriousness of my cancer, but he didn’t really give me anything I could actually work with. In fact, he was kind of a debbie-downer. I could tell he wanted to pass me off to my real doctors ASAP. My dad was with me with the whole time, so we decided to get the pre-work done for radiation treatment (more scans, a mask for radiation, tests) and be on our way out. I decided I wanted to hear about my cancer from my two oncologists – my primary and my REAL radiation oncologist – face to face.

I saw my Dream Team doctors back to back this last Tuesday (yes!), and even though we are optimistic about blasting away the tumor in my neck, I have the unfortunate news that my cancer has spread. According my PET scans, there is a fairly large size tumor in my lymph nodes in my neck which I have been complaining about; one infected lymph node just below and behind my esophagus (which is fits the pattern for the spreading); and two very small clusters of cancer cells just above my belly button (my oncologist could not even feel these).

The GOOD news is that there are no cancer cells detected in my pelvic region where my cervical tumor was! YES!! I beat that sucker!

I started my radiation treatment on Tuesday and will continue for three weeks. It’s simple: in and out in 15 minutes with VERY little side affects this time!

Here are some questions that I asked my doctors, which I am sure some of you may have as well:

  • How do your doctors know that the cancer in your neck is the same cancer as on your cervix? How can it spread like that??  Because of the small traces in my abdomen and the infected lone lymph node by my esophagus, I fit the “spreading pattern” for my specific cervical cancer. I trust my oncologists with this.
  • Why not just remove the tumor in your neck with surgery?  There are too many veins and arteries in my neck area where the tumor is. Not worth it!! Both of my oncologists have successfully gotten rid of neck tumors by just using radiation. And I don’t even need that much radiation treatment compared to last time.
  • What is your radiation plan like? Week days Monday through Friday for 3 weeks, about 15-20 minutes per session. Easy, peasy!
  • What are the symptoms for your new radiation treatment?  Only a sore throat and some fatigue. NOTHING like when I went through radiation before, thank goodness! No nausea or vomiting either – yes!
  • Why are you not doing chemotherapy first?  My last few cycles of chemotherapy worked wonders to eliminate the cancer cells in my pelvis, but unfortunately the tumor in my neck was unresponsive to that specific combination of chemotherapy. We know this because the tumor was able to grow through my last chemo treatments. But no worries, there are plenty of chemos to try!
  • What happens after you are done with the three weeks of radiation? We will let myself recover from the radiation and move onto the *new* chemotherapy cycles to get the cancer cells in my abdomen eliminated and whatever may be left over from radiation. After that, it will be time for another PET scan to see the progress!
  • Does a PET scan show every single cancer cell?  No. Although our technology is incredibly advanced, it cannot detect every single minor scopic cancer cell. It CAN catch small clusters and problem areas. I’m happy with that!
  • Is spreadable cancer curable?  ABSO-FREAKING-LUTLY!!! Both of my amazing oncologists have cured patients before that have had spreading cancer. And, uh hello? I’m like 25 years old with an amazing fighting spirit! Please, I do not want anyone to worry.
  • Is there a prognosis for your cancer? Here comes the gut-wrentcher… since my cancer has spread throughout my body, there is a good chance that I would live with this forever, and without a cure. Some oncologists don’t feel comfortable giving their patient’s the “this is how many years you have to live” discuss for many reasons: one reason being, there is just no way of knowing, especially so early on in the spreading! No body knows what’s the pesky cancer is up to, or where it’s going next. Another reason is that the oncologists want to keep their patients positive and hopeful, and just take the spreading scan by scan. These are my oncologists – and I LOVE them for that! On the flip side … I received an opinion from the debbie-downer fill-in doctor who I saw last Friday for my scan results. Remembered how I said I kept pressuring him for information? He asked if I wanted to know his honest opinion, and I desperately said “yes” (maybe that was an accident). “Hmmmmm …” He responded quietly, “2 years?” He also said that “it” is not curable. Well, how’s that for a Friday afternoon! After further discussing this opinion with my regular docs, they assured me that we just have to watch the scans, and there’s no way that they personally could be an expiration date on me. Ha!

So, what is my personal plan, you may ask? Well I’m going to get ready to fight like hell! This cancer has declared a war, and I am determined bring on the fight of my life! I am getting my body the strongest  it  has  ever  been; I am filling my body with only green eating; cutting all CRAP  - no sugar, no bad carbs, no hormones, no chemicals. I’m giving my body the absolutely best it needs from the inside and out!

Mentally, I am taking everything day by day and focusing on ONLY positive. I will write again soon with more of my goals, hopes and dreams while living with cancer. Right now I wanted to get the news out there for everyone to hear.

I am in the process of having an actual cancer support website made that will have a link to this blog.

And here is also my Caringbridge.com site I have started as well:

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/kathypotwin

I’m so sorry if I didn’t have a chance to call some of my friends and family personally with the news, and that some of you had to find out on this blog. As you can imagine, this is a crazy time for me and my family right now. Thank you again for all your love, support, well wishes and positives thoughts.

Just a closing thought inspired by one of my cancer Heroes and Gururs Kris Carr: So, I have to live with cancer. So WHAT?!? I mean, everyone has to live with something. Right? No matter if you are sick or perfectly healthy, this thing called ‘life’ is still terminal, people. Us cancer folks are just more aware of it. And I am not letting this pesky disease break my spirit or my soul. Every day I wake up and I am a survivor. Everyday is mine for the taking. Watch me shine through cancer!!!

Laughs, light and love. xoxo -Kathy

Entry 39: The Lists

“We all know we are going to die, we just refuse to believe it. And we would do things differently if we did.” – Tuesdays with Morrie

I read this quote in the book last weekend, and it has been sticking with me. I also encountered a beautiful website where a husband features photos of his late wife who recently died of breast cancer. She was diagnosed only 5 months after they got married,  and she passed away almost five years later. mywifesfightwithbreastcancer.com, “The Battle We Didn’t Choose.” My husband and I can relate A LOT to that title.

As I clutch the quote above close to my heart, I can’t help but wonder – “what if my cancer comes back, or I am diagnosed with a different cancer, and I am gone in five years? What if this is my fate? What if, like millions of people around world, my death will be dying of cancer?”

Never in these last nine months, since the day I was diagnosed, did I ever once consider dying of my disease … until this past weekend. The pain from the chemotherapy was so overwhelming! And they say that when you die of cancer there is a lot of pain. So I wondered if the pain I was feeling was anything similar to what dying of cancer feels like. Depressing, right?? I kept myself full of pain meds while I endured the symptoms of treatment, but I felt it the second the meds wore off – I was in agony.

Kind of morbid … sorry!!! But I couldn’t keep it from crossing my mind! I swear I will turn this into a positive post. :) I know we’re not supposed to talk about “death”, especially when you have cancer. Positive, positive, positive – right?! ;)

Where I was going with all of this is that my weekend in agony prompted me to ask myself, “What is most important to me in life? What to I want to accomplish? What would I do if, say, I did only have five years to live?”

And this is where the lists begin:

Most Important Things in Life:

  • My Husband
  • My family
  • My friends
  • Charity  - helping others
  • Loving myself
  • Compassion for others
  • Peace
  • Freedom

Things I Want To Do:

  • Play flute
  • Dance
  • Get my body strong and healthy
  • Fly an airplane
  • Perform on a stage
  • Travel the world
  • Write a book (maybe)

Charitable Causes I Want To Be Apart of:

  • Children’s Cancer Association – I would love to become a Chemo Pal!
  • Women’s Domestic Abuse Hotline – Been thinking about this for a long time and I really want to do it, in honor of one of my very best friends.
  • Cervical cancer awareness – slowly becoming the “new” breast cancer
  • Youth oncology
  • Empowering young women
  • Music & Arts

It was scary, accepting that I am going to die, and MAYBE die of cancer, one day. But it is also very freeing. I know what I want and who I want to be now, and these philosophies will only continue to bloom as I grow.

Have you ever made a list like these? Why or why not? Do you plan on executing what is on your “lists”, whether they be mental or on paper?

Even if my scan next week still show signs of cancer, I am not going to “stop life” like I did before. If I have to go through more treatment, I am going to keep to my lists and keep going. I can’t let anything stop me. If disease ends up taking over my body one day (hopefully not), I might be too physically weak to accomplish these things, so I need to proceed while I still have strength. You know the old saying … “Live like you are dying”. I can’t control how or when my body will stop working, but I can control what I do with it while I’m still functioning.

Ending this post with the Serenity Prayer … it’s so beautiful:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

 

…. and the final dance scene from ‘Center Stage’. Just dance!

xoxo,

Kathy

Entry 38: Coming back down to Earth from Chemo Land

“Ladies and Gentlemen, our flight is now descending. We should be arriving back to Reality on time. Please set your watches accordingly, and thank you for flying Jet Chemo-sucks!”

Yes! I am finally feeling like I am off the chemo-wagon! Wow, what hell I have been through these last few days. I know I updated last week saying that I felt better, but then the physical side affects set in: bone and joint pain. I normally get this after chemo, but this time the pain and fatigue was off the charts!On  Saturday I felt like death. I couldn’t get out of bed and I was on pain killers. When my meds wore off in the middle of the night, I literally felt like some one was stabbing my arms and legs. It was such a horrible feeling! This was by far the worst cycle of chemotherapy I have EVER had. My body has been through nine months of hell, and it has finally taken it’s toll. I think I really know what it feels like to be dying, because before the body starts to “bounce” back from the treatment, the chemotherapy medicine is literally killing my body. This episode pushed me to my limit, and I am absolutely amazed that my body has bounced back yet AGAIN. I am so much stronger than I ever could have imagined, especially in my current condition and considering what my body has been through.

In the middle of battling the pain, I contemplated the possibility of having to do more treatment if my scan still shows positive signs of cancer. My first reaction, while lying on my “death bed”, was: “There’s no way. No more. NO MORE!!!” I can really empathize now why some cancer patients choose Hospice over more treatment … living in that kind of pain is no way to live at all. And it’s probably much worse than what I experienced.

I don’t know what I would do if I had to do more treatment after this one. I guess I would do whatever my doctor told me to since the bottom line is I want to live, but I lost my fight there for a few moments back there. Like, really lost it.

But like my body, my fight has bounced back. I am determined to get through this no matter what!! It’s funny how motivating quotes have been popping into my head from when I was working out with my trainer before I was diagnosed. A lot of the quotes consisted of reaching out of my comfort zone …

I think about that and laugh now. Comfort zone! What comfort zone? Do I even HAVE one anymore?? I have been been pushed over the edge physically, mentally and emotionally numerous times throughout out my journey: I lost my hair – TWICE; I experienced the most invasive radiation treatments in oncology to date; when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they got worse; when I thought the treatments would get better, they got worse. Well, you guys get the idea.

I remember last September running on a treadmill and thinking, “Oh my God this is the hardest thing ever! I’ve never felt this kind of pain before! I think I’m going to pass out – no, I’m going to die!! This is so stupid! Whaaaa!!” And I would totally lose focus as to why I was even on that treadmill in the first place, and I would just want to quit. I couldn’t handle the workload, the pain. Not just the physical pain of my muscles trying to keep pace, but the mental pain of not thinking I could do it.

The pain I experienced then now pales in comparison to what I have been through this past year.

Now I can’t wait until I get back on that effing treadmill!! As long as I never have to endure treatments like this again, then my “bad days” are OVER. I completely understand the importance of good health and why exercise is so important. I am ready to start a new chapter in my life.

My PET scan is this Tuesday at 1:30pm. My oncologist will examine my entire body for any left over cancer cells, as well as the “problem areas”. I should know his findings by the end of next week. A few days ago I was terrified of getting scanned for fear of the unknown. Now I say, “bring it on”. I’m going to live my life like normal and start going back to work next week as planned. Once I have fully recovered from this cycle of chemo I’m going to start hitting the gym – gently, of course! Well, maybe. ;) I can’t let fear rule my life or keep me from doing what I want to do.

I want to end this post with a bunch of Lance Armstrong quotes. Here ‘goes!

“Now I only have good days, and great days.”

“I wanted to live, but whether I would or not was mystery, and in the midst of confronting that fact, even at that moment, I was beginning to sense that to stare into the heart of such a fearful mystery wasn’t a bad thing. To be afraid is a priceless education.”

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me. So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with?”

“If you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on.”

“Through my illness I learned rejection. I was written off. That was the moment I thought, ‘Okay, game on. No prisoners. Everybody’s going down.’”

“This is my body, and I can do whatever I want to it. I can push it, study it, tweak it; listen to it. Everybody wants to know what I am on. What am I on? I am on my bike busting my ass six hours a day. What are YOU on?”

“What ever your 100% looks like, give it.”

“Anything is possible. You can be told you have a 90-percent chance or a 50-percent chance or a 1-percent chance, but you have to believe, and you have to fight. By fight I mean arm yourself with all the available information, get second opinions, third opinions, and fourth opinions. Understand what has invaded your body, and what the possible cures are. It’s another fact of cancer that the more informed and empowered patient has a better chance of long-term survival. What if I had lost? What if I relapsed and the cancer came back? I still believe I would have gained something in the struggle, because in what time I had left I would have been a more complete, compassionate, and intelligent man, and therefore more alive.”

“Quit? You know, once I was thinking of quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit.”
Which one is your favorite?? Take care and many blessings everyone!

xoxo,

Kathy

 

Entry 37: Update since yesterday

I am happy to report that I am feeling so much better today! I feel tired and sleepy, but the suffering and fear is gone. Thank you to everyone who reached out to me through comments here and on Facebook. I feel so blessed to have such wonderful people in my life, even if I have never met you before!

I feel like I have learned so much over the last 48 hours of life: the extent of my strength, love, forgiveness and letting go. I wandered through the fire and now I feel at peace. I know that life will go on again, versus two days ago I was wondering if I would ever escape the suffering and torment of treatment.

Love is the purest of all human emotions, so LET IT IN. Let yourself be loved, let yourself love others, and most of all let yourself love YOU. Then, you will find peace.

More later! Have a wonderful day :)

Xoxo,
Kathy

Entry 36: First day post-chemo and Update!

Yesterday was one of the most important days of my life, a day I will never forget as long as I live: it was my last day of chemotherapy, my last day of nine months of treatment. Last day of hell (for now). Before I get into the emotional aspects, I want to update you – my friends and family – on what is happening next:

I am getting a fully body PET scan in 2 weeks. It’s a routine scan, but scheduled sooner than expected, and for a reason. My oncologist is concerned about a swollen lymph node in my neck, and he’s also concerned about all of the consistent back, shoulder and neck pain I have been having. If it makes you feel better (because it sure as hell makes ME feel better) my lymph nodes have the symptoms of being infected and inflamed, not cancerous. And my back pain feels like muscle tension due to stress which goes away will relaxing, stretching and activity. However, in Cancer World the possibility of cancer always comes first. 2 weeks to wait for the scan will give enough time to let this round of chemo kick in, and even waking up this morning my lymph node is smaller and my back/shoulder/neck pain has gone down significantly. I was very stressed and very tense in the days leading up to my last treatment, so this reaction makes sense to me.

Ok, time for the emotional stuff! The whole reason why I blog. :) Please be prepared as this will be a little intense …

I was super excited and super pumped yesterday the morning. There was a slight chance that my last chemo treatment would be postponed if my blood levels were too low, but I was feeling energetic which usually means GOOD levels. And sure enough, they were good!! My platelets and white blood cells, which were scary low just last week, have made their way up just in time. I got settled into the chemo “lounge” and started treatment. I thought I would be dancing out of there in no time, but fast-forwarding five hours later into the day … I was still getting chemo, and I felt like crap. My skin was turning yellow because I am slightly anemic from treatment, and the fluorescent lights did not help my complexion!! I was incredibly tired (from barely sleeping the night before) but I couldn’t nap because of the steroids that were being injected into me. I was getting very weak and nauseous, which I normally don’t experience until 2+ days after chemo, but it was happening right away. After 9 months of treatment was taking its toll on my body. What I thought would be one of the happiest days of my life was turning into a nightmare. I barely had any energy to text back and forth with some friends and family, but keeping connected to the outside world was I all had to keep me going.

When I got home, my husband immediately put me to bed and I slept like a log. Sleeping felt great, but everything changed the moment I woke up. My shoulder and neck pain was at a 9 (0 being no pain, 10 being worse pain. Doctors always make you rate it.), and I was starting to have really bad bowl movements caused by treatment. I called out to my husband for help, but then I remembered that during my nap he woke me up to let me know that he was going out to bring home some dinner. I got out of bed and almost collapsed, having no energy to call anyone for help. I dragged myself to the bathroom where I spent probably the next thirty minutes being on and off the toilet, getting nauseous and laying on the cold, tile floor in pain. I cried and cried, but not really from my physical state (which I am sure would make anyone cry) but just from being scared and alone. Of course I new my husband would back any minute, but it didn’t help the situation NOW. The bad thing about going into a panic attack while being physically and emotionally weak is that it can easily just spiral out of control.

While I waited and lay on the shower mat, I realized that my left shoulder/arm pain was getting too much to bare, and my panic attack was setting in. My oncologist had told me earlier that he thought it was due to lack of movement and exercise on the left side of my body because I’m a right-handed. At that point, anything was worth a try, so I grabbed our “Bathroom Reader” big book sitting next to me, and just started lifting with my left arm. Here’s a photo I took while I was literally hoisting myself up with little strength I had (posted on Facebook):

Before treatment, I was working with a trainer to get in shape for my wedding and was used to doing rigorous work outs, especially on my arms (problem area!!). I tried to remember every arm and shoulder exercise my trainer taught me, and I just went for it. Despite being in so much pain, despite being nauseous, tired and weak, I told my myself, “Not today!!” and kept lifting that book up and down.

To my surprise, my body reacted very quickly and the pain subsided. Now having a small  burst of energy I could hold myself up a little higher. A few minutes after that my husband walked in the door and came to my side. I was so happy to see him that I started crying uncontrollably – he mistook it for something being terribly wrong, but I was finally able to get out the words that I was going to be ok, that I was scared and just so happy that he was home.

Instense, right??

Luckily I pulled myself together and got through the rest of the night ok. And like I mentioned above, I woke up this morning with very little shoulder and neck pain. I still feel like crap though, but that’s to be expected for the next few days.

Some of you may be wondering if I am nervous about my scan in 2 weeks. I was really nervous at first, and it was another thing that I let ruin my day after the affects of chemo really started taking over. My doctor said that based on the scan results, I could do more chemo. I thought I was DONE, and that my treatments were OVER. However I quickly came to the reality that I will having scans and exams for next two years, and this is just the beginning. I could have a routine scan a year from now and they could find something. I could have an exam 2 years from now and they could find something. Like my wonderful chemo nurse, Rob, explained to me yesterday, I can’t let the fear of cancer coming back take over or dictate my life. Including the scan that I have to get in 2 weeks. I need to move on and enjoy my life. Nurse Rob said that I will know that I have moved on when I can pass my oncology office and not look at it. Hard to imagine right now, but I know that day will come!

Well I am going to wrap up this post by saying thank you to every one for letting me share my pain, fears, hope and happiness with you. I’ll keep the updates coming as I start to feel better, and of course about the scan.

Take care and God Bless!

xoxo,

Kathy

Post 35: My feelings and reaction to the Colorado “Dark Knight Rises” Movie Theater shooting

At lease one point during my sessions with my cancer counselor, we brush on the topic of life and death, and my counselor almost always says, “I could walk to my car tonight and be killed; you could live until you’re 85.”

I used to be guilty of thinking that I could control my life. As I read more into the story that happened early this morning at the movie theater in Colorado, I am definitely reaffirmed that this is not the case. No one can control their lives. We can try, like I did, but you become exhausted, frustrated and lost, because the more you try to control things, the more things go array.

I am very saddened and confused by the tragedy that occurred. The senseless act of taking innocent human lives is so heart braking and baffling to me. I can’t even imagine doing something as “normal” and fun as going to the movies, then having it be the place where take your last breath. And to not know why you were dying. I have a feeling we will never know why the killer decided to do what he did.

Yes, I have beat cancer, but that doesn’t mean I can’t die tomorrow in a car accident. That’s why I believe in celebrating life every day, to go for my dreams, and never look back. I am learning to let go of my control issues and live my “dream life”. I also think it is very important to help others, so once I am officially done with this cancer stuff I am excited to see how this will play out in my life.

Life is too short to “play it safe”. The thing holding you back from living the life you always wanted to live, is you.

The families of those killed in the shooting will definitely be in my prayers tonight.

Take care and God Bless everyone!

Kathy

Entry 34: One week left!!!!

My last and final cancer treatment (chemotherapy) is scheduled for next Tuesday, July 24th – yay! I was hoping to get it done a week early, tomorrow, but my blood levels are still too low. Specifically, my white blood cell count is really low. This means that I have to beware of germs, and I have to wash my hands like a thousand times a day.

It’s going to be a long week.

This round of chemotherapy has been so hard on me physically. It’s proven how amazingly strong my body is, and how hard it fights to correct what the chemo does to it. This has taught me that my body considers being balanced as a way of survival. It doesn’t like being “off”. Does that make sense? I knew this to a certain extent before, but seeing it in action it actually pretty cool. For example, when I receive the chemo medicine my blood levels sloooowly drop, but once they reach their lowest point and start to reproduce, the levels go up super super quick. Like my cells are really anxious to go back to “normal”. Amazing, right? I can apply this thinking towards fueling my body with the right foods, exercise and the TLC that is needs. I now understand that my body is an intelligent, well-oiled machine that needs to be cared for on a daily basis. Treat your body well, and it will treat you well!

I have been so emotional with the thought of my last treatment coming up. I’ve been at this for nine long months – now what do I do with myself? Contrary to my assumptions, one does not just beat cancer and go back to “normal” life. There is a whole other journey of being a survivor post-treatment. I’m not quite sure what that entails yet, but I know there are many support groups and helpful information through the cancer organizations I’ve come in contact with. There’s the physical recovery, mental recovery, and easing back into daily things like going to work, chores, working out, socializing and so forth. My oncologist said it would take about 3 months after my last treatment for my body to physically recover. I don’t even remember what that feels like to be “normal”! I’m definitely looking forward to that.

I am so excited to start planning for my recovery. No longer will my life revolve around treatments, blood levels or feeling icky. As much as I just want to jump back into EVERYTHING, I have been strongly advised to take it slow. I think I can handle that – I HOPE I can handle that. :)

As I start to make a list of things I want to do after treatment, I try to remember to always choose happiness. I used to be a terrible people-pleaser, and of course now I know that I have to do things that I love and to do them for myself. Maybe I will elaborate on this more at a later time.

Until next time … take care everyone! My next post will feature something shiny, red, new and FAST. Can you guess what? You’ll just have to wait and see!!

xoxo,

Kathy

 

Entry 33: Update on me and my blog!

Hello friends! Do you like the new look for my blog? Cute, right?? I had fun drawing my cupcake cartoon. The header and background were drawn and designed by ME! I decided that my little cartoon will be the new mascot for my blog and my message that Life’s a Cupcake! He/she needs a name though … my mascot will soon start having the major responsibility of starring in cartoon segments about life with cancer. Stay “tooned”!

So, how am I doing? Blah. It has been one week since my second chemotherapy treatment and what a struggle this past week has been. I thought that since my oncologist switched me to a milder form of chemo medicine that the symptoms would be easier to handle. Well, that was a big N-O. I have been sicker than I ever have been my whole journey from chemotherapy, and I think this is because my levels are the lowest they have been. I’m tired and winded all the time, and my body is very achey. I feel uncomfortable all day, even when I’m in a big cushy bed. My bones and joints hurt. My left arm, where the chemo was administered, is very sore. My shoulders are tense and tight from stress. Sigh. So physically I am a mess, but I am actually doing surprisingly well mentally!

I am just so excited for all of this to be over. I feel positive and upbeat. I want to reach out and help other people so badly (with cancer, life, charity, anything!) but I have to get well first. Being so close to the end of my journey is frustrating because I am soooo ready to close this chapter of my life and move on. With all of this new physical pain and delays on treatment, I want this to be over now more than ever. OF COURSE the last stint of my journey has to have the hardest hurdles! Isn’t that how it always goes in life? Well, give it all you got cancer! You have already lost, and now it’s time to pound you into the ground!

My counselor said I really have to focus on taking extra good care of myself for the next few weeks. I have been reading, lounging in the pool and enjoying little sweets (French macarons anyone?) while I heal. I think I have finally found peace and calm in my mind. I don’t feel stressed anymore! I can’t wait until I can be active again. That is one of the things I miss the most, and a great way to relieve stress. My motivation is totally different now, so I am really looking forward to easing into workouts and going to the gym when I’m ready.

Thank you everyone for your love and support! My last and FINAL treatment will be Tuesday, June 24th as long as my blood counts stay good. I’m sneaking in a week earlier to see if I can get treatment done on the 17th based on my platelet levels, but as my oncologist nicely put: “Don’t count on it.” I am sooo going to try anyways!!

Xoxo,

Kathy

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